“These qualification flight tests demonstrate the B61-12 design meets system requirements and illustrate the continued progress of the B61-12 life extension program to meet national security requirements,” Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration spokesman Brig. Gen. Michael Lutton said of the tests in a press release.
The B61-12’s flight testing aboard the B-2 platform was conducted on June 9 at Nevada’s Tonopah Test Range under the direction of the 419th Test & Evaluation Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base, California.
The Pentagon plans to deploy its B61 Mod 12 bombs at military bases across Europe, including Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Turkey.
The B61 Mod 12 nuclear gravity bomb is expected to be made compatible with the F-35, and to enter into service by 2020, replacing existing variants of the B61 in the US arsenal. The weapon will also be carried by the B-2 Spirit and its successor, the B-21 Raider, which is currently under development.
Originally introduced in the mid-1960s, the B61 is a 700 pound bomb with a blast yield of between 0.3 and 50 kilotons, depending on mode. For comparison, the Little Boy and Fat Man atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 had a yield of about 15 and 20 kilotons, respectively. Some 180 B61s are deployed throughout Europe.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that Washington will spend $25 billion on the modernization of its tactical nuclear forces over the next 30 years.